[Stop-traffic] News/US: Lawyer charged in schemes to sneak Chinese into country

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/US: Lawyer charged in schemes to sneak Chinese into country
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Wed Sep 27 2000 - 09:53:18 EDT

Human smuggling
Lawyer charged in schemes to sneak Chinese into country
By Graham Rayman
Newsday, September 21, 2000

Robert Porges used his Harvard law degree to establish a thriving
immigration practice on the edge of Chinatown, representing thousands
of immigrants, mostly from China. But his multimillion-dollar law
practice -- one of the largest in the United States -- had a dark
side, officials said yesterday.

Porges, 61, was arrested on federal charges that he was house counsel
for people smuggling Chinese immigrants into the United States. The
enterprise -- an assembly line for illegal immigration run by people
known as "snakeheads” -- garnered Porges $13.5 million since 1993,
according to a 44-count federal indictment.

Also arrested were Porges' wife, Sheery Lu Porges, who allegedly
acted as liaison with the smugglers, and seven current and former

Porges and his staff advised the smugglers on ways to sneak the
immigrants into the United States and represented those caught by
immigration authorities, said Mary Jo White, the U.S. attorney in

If the firm succeeded in gaining the release of an immigrant, Porges
then helped the snakeheads collect any unpaid fees owed them by
guiding the immigrants to places like Kennedy Airport where they
would be kidnaped, White said. The immigrants would then be held
until they or their families paid the balance of smuggling fees, she

Porges and his staff also helped immigrants concoct false asylum
stories, according to the indictment. Asylum claims included
political persecution, violation of China's strict family laws or
membership in underground religious groups, the indictment said.

"Manhattan attorneys in three-piece suits do not typically come to
mind when the public pictures people who traffic in human cargo,”
said Doris Meissner, commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and
Naturalization Service.

Snakeheads typically charge $40,000 to $50,000 to smuggle Chinese
nationals into the United States, White said. They take part of the
fee up front and the rest on delivery, she said.

Even if the immigrants are caught by INS officials, they still must
pay the fee. Often, they end up working in indentured servitude,
forced into prostitution, or laboring for the smugglers.

Sometimes, their families are subject to threats and violence, Meissner said.

"The shift in alien smuggling from small, family-run businesses to
well-organized, well-financed, sophisticated enterprises has become a
multibillion-dollar problem,” Meissner said.

Porges and six co-defendants were arrested early yesterday on
racketeering, smuggling, asylum fraud, hostage-taking and conspiracy
charges. Porges could face up to 175 years in prison if convicted and
his wife could face life.

The defendants were awaiting arraignment late yesterday in federal
court in Manhattan. A man who identified himself as the husband of
defendant June Liu expressed shock at her arrest.

"She's only the interpreter,” he said.

Leibert Greenberg, the attorney for paralegal Jeffrey Tse, 45, of
Edgewater, N.J., declined comment.

Ira London, the lawyer for clerk Rity Sulan Peng, declined comment on
the charges but said his client has no prior criminal record.

There was no answer at Porges' offices at 401 Broadway yesterday. His
lawyer could not be reached for comment last night.

The far-reaching enterprise involved smugglers in China and the
United States. Immigrants were typically smuggled into New York; San
Diego; Phoenix; El Paso, Texas; New Orleans; Miami; and Puerto Rico,
the indictment said. If they were caught and detained, they were
instructed to contact Porges' law firm, officials said.

If they were released from detention, the immigrants would be
abducted by the smugglers, who had been tipped off by Porges' firm,
the indictment said. Some of the immigrants were held in an apartment
in Brooklyn, the indictment said.

White hinted that smugglers linked to Porges have been the subject of
past indictments but she declined to provide specifics. Asked whether
any of the immigrants were forced into prostitution, White said,
"There's nothing in the public record about that.”

Porges charged $1,500 to $2,000 per asylum application, and from
6,000 to 7,000 asylum applications are attributable to his firm, said
Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Biben.
Melanie Orhant
Stop-Traffic Moderator

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